After 10 Months in Space, Cosmonaut Is in a New Land
Cosmonaut Sergei K. Krikalev needed smelling salts after returning to Earth on Wednesday. Not only were his legs wobbly from his 10-month space mission, but he also had to cope with 10 months’ worth of dizzying political upheaval that took place in his homeland while he was away.
He and fellow Russian Alexander Volkov--the Soviet Union’s last cosmonauts--landed along with a German passenger on the snowy plains of Kazakhstan after being replaced aboard the orbiting Mir space station by a new Russian crew.
Ground workers lifted Krikalev, Volkov and German test pilot Klaus-Dietrich Flade from their Soyuz TM-13 capsule, placed them in chairs, wrapped fur-lined coats around them and gave them hot broth to drink. They wiped their brows and took their blood pressure, and the cosmonauts smiled and waved at photographers.
Krikalev, whose uniform sleeve still bore the letters “U.S.S.R.” and the red Soviet flag, emerged last from the capsule.
He was given smelling salts and appeared a bit dizzy as he adjusted to gravity after 313 days in space, although a television report said later that he was feeling “marvelous.”
When the 34-year-old Krikalev (whose name is pronounced sur'-gay kreek'-uh-lawf) blasted off May 18, 1991, the Soviet universe had not yet collapsed. Mikhail S. Gorbachev still was president, the hammer-and-sickle still flew proudly over the Kremlin and the Communist Party still held power. And Krikalev’s hometown was still Leningrad--it’s since renamed itself St. Petersburg.
Wednesday’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta (the Independent Newspaper) said Krikalev had made “a voyage through time.”
“Krikalev’s return after almost one year’s absence is like a favorite story out of Soviet science fiction, in which cosmonauts who have spent a short time in space return to Earth, where ages have gone by and everything--everything--has changed,” Russian Television said.
Krikalev’s extended mission was about two months short of the 366-day world record held by fellow cosmonaut Musa Manarov. Krikalev said he did not regret not breaking Manarov’s record.
“I wasn’t going after the record. It makes more sense for me to rest and then go back up,” he said.